August 11th. That was the date the Big Ten announced that they were canceling football season in the Fall. It had been less than a week since the conference had released their schedule which they bragged contained guardrails for game cancellations, and it occurred days before news of a breakthrough in rapid testing. Except for the barrage of leaks to the college football media that the decision to cancel the season and try to play in the Spring was imminent, the whole process was unconscionably disorganized.
Fast forward to this weekend and we have an Ohio State program that is a top four team in the country, but could very well be ineligible for the Big Ten championship game. They missed one game because Maryland had COVID-19 issues and now the virus is afflicting the Buckeyes and they had to cancel their game against Illinois.
Big Ten rules for this weird season stipulate that a team must play six games to qualify for the conference title game. Ohio State has games left against Michigan State and Michigan, and would not be able to miss either of them — unless the Big Ten East averages less than six games per team, which at this juncture appears unlikely.
It’s going to be a tall order for Ohio State to field a team next week against Michigan State. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but the two previous Big Ten teams that had outbreaks — Wisconsin and Maryland — each had to miss two weeks on account of them.
The Big Ten canceled their season too early and resumed it too late. This isn’t revisionist history. The SEC, ACC, and Big 12 made the prudent decisions to postpone their seasons for three weeks apiece and build in two bye weeks per team to handle inevitable missed games. The Big Ten blew it.
Conference leadership could very well find themselves in a position where they either have to change their own rules to accommodate Ohio State, or field Indiana out of the Big Ten East when Ohio State already beat them head-to-head. Indiana-Northwestern going head-to-head on TV with the SEC title game on a Saturday night would be one thing if it were legitimately merited, but the Big Ten should really change their rules to accommodate Ohio State if they have to miss one of their next two games.